Ronnie Cohen wonders why at least one budget airline flying from the UK targets its flight information at continental and American passengers.
When you fly, you are likely to be able to see moving-map information on the plane’s in-flight entertainment system. This is real-time flight information updated constantly on the plane’s video screens from its computer systems. It shows altitude, outside air temperature, ground speed, distance travelled and the distance to destination.
I recently flew to Prague for a short trip with a budget airline and I noticed that the moving-map system provided information in English and Czech. The Czech version used metric units, namely degree Celsius, metres and kilometres whereas the English language version used Fahrenheit, feet and miles. So Czech passengers were catered for and Americans too, but less thought appears to have been given to British passengers (who happened to be in the majority on the flight).
Whilst one can see the need to translate between languages, is unit conversion really necessary? During the Olympic Games in Rio last year, everyone used metric units, including the British and Americans. Perhaps unit conversion for English language displays is done for simplicity – a majority of those around the world whose first language is English are Americans, so flight software may have been written with them in mind.
Here is the table of units used in the English and Czech language versions on the plane’s moving-map information system:
|Phenomenon||Units in English version||Units in Czech version|
|Outside air temperature||Fahrenheit||Celsius|
|Ground speed||miles per hour||kilometres per hour|
Many readers will have noticed also that the BBC’s prestigious series Planet Earth 2 was aimed primarily at the US market, and Commonwealth audiences were expected to get their heads around US units of measurement, including degrees Fahrenheit. Although the Prime Minister may claim otherwise, is it possible that commercial pressures are now relegating the UK towards the status of America’s 51st state?
As we know, there are a host of activities including trade, manufacture, science, medicine, international publishing and world sporting events that require a common and universal measurement system in order to ensure mutual understanding. Over the past two centuries this has become the metric system. Foisting US measures on other English-speaking peoples who have made the switch to the global measurement system leads to confusion, misunderstanding and incomprehension.
Airlines, authors of flight software and television producers please take note.